Education

As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Building up courage after failure can be difficult. Overcoming the disappointment of failure seems impossible. Learning to try again after failure is hard because your attempts are weighed down with doubt and hurt. Trying again requires facing your mistakes so you do not repeat them. It can be daunting, but it can be done.

I experienced failure during my sophomore year of high school, when I fell very ill on the last day of finals. By my last final of the day, I had just managed to sign my name at the top of my math test when I ran to the bathroom. I stayed there until school was out because I was too sick to go back to class. Because I couldn’t go back to class, I failed the class and would have to take it over. It was crushing. I felt sure that I would have passed the test and the class had I not been sick. Yet, this is the way things happened.

Though my failure felt out of my hands, what happened next was all up to me. At our school, we had the option of making up certain classes by taking them over again in the regular school year, summer school or at the local college. You do have to make them up eventually to continue advancing. I put it off for a long time. I felt like it was a waste of my time since I had already taken the class and was about to pass it. It seemed like I would just be learning things I already knew. To be really honest, I was worried about putting in more time and energy and failing again. I was afraid of people learning I was a failure without an “excuse” this time.

I finally opted for a summer course at the college because I could not avoid it anymore. Instead of feeling bad for myself and sitting in class regretting why I had to be there, I mustered up the strength to give the class all my attention and energy, and I focused and followed every rule and instruction. I was never late and never missed a class. I gave it my all because I did not want to have to go through the same thing again. In the end, I had the highest grade in the class. I could finally put the whole thing behind me. It was a relief but more than that, I felt good about myself. I didn’t feel like a failure anymore because I proved I could do what I set out to do.

It wasn’t easy, but along the way and through my own experiences, I learned many lessons from failing:

  • Do one thing everyday that challenges you. There have been times I was afraid of failing so it took me a long time to get stuff done. It’s hard to commit to following through if you are scared. Learn to embrace the hard challenges.
  • If things don’t go right the first time: try again. Even if you have to keep trying, your efforts will eventually pay off.
  • Try to find someone in your life who will be brutally honest with you. It’s great to be self-motivated but I also have people in my life who don’t let me get away with everything.
  • Make peace with the idea that not everything will go your way all the time. It’s okay that it hurts when something bad happens, but you will not fail at life if you get a bad grade on a test. Don’t wallow in what you did wrong. Learn from your mistakes. You have to work hard and give it all you have to make it right the next time.

Through my life, I’ve found the things you put off have a way of coming back. Being afraid of failure has a way of holding you back. It is not just a matter of being held back a grade because you did not pass. Failing has a way of making you feel stuck. If you think that your efforts will get you nowhere, you won’t see the value in trying. An important thing to remember is that you can have failures in your life but no one is really a failure as a person. You can fail but you can always try again. So, face your failures. If there is something still gnawing at you, deal with it. Don’t let your failures hold you back because you have a lifetime of bumps and obstacles that will knock you down more times than you can count. What will set you apart and make all the difference is when you get back up and try again.

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HealthSkills

Being a student isn’t a walk in the park. There’s always a paper to write, a homework assignment to complete, a book to read, a test to study for, and the list goes on.

This is why I like to think of both college and high school as four year careers. Sure, it doesn’t provide you with any kind of salary, but the lack of an income doesn’t stop any of you from hoping that all of your hard work will pay off in the end.

Why is that you ask? Well, I like to to think it’s because we all have a particular equation drilled into our heads. It might look different for you, but basically the equation goes like this:

Completing every assignment + Participating in class + Doing well on tests = __________

There are a number of outcomes to this mathematical problem. If you’re in high school, doing all of these things could mean getting straight As, graduating at the top of your class, and getting into the university of your dreams. In college, it could guarantee that you’ll make the Dean’s List every semester and possibly gain you admittance into your college’s honors program.

The point is, we all have our reasons for working hard in school. We all have short and long term goals that we strive to achieve during our scholarly careers.

But what happens when we don’t reach those goals? What happens when that equation, though simply put, becomes more complicated than we thought it would?

I know no one wants to think about the alternative to success. If we’re set on accomplishing all that we want to do, what is the point of thinking about that seven letter word that begins with an F? Some people might think they’re immune to this word because they’ve always gotten good grades, participated in class, and received stellar grades on their tests. While it’s always good to think positively and to never doubt yourself, it doesn’t do you any good to think you’re invincible or that the seven letter word, which almost always feels like a punch in the throat, will define us for the rest of our lives.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the word I’m talking about is failure. So many of us are afraid of it because, for whatever reason, we believe that if we ‘fail’ we have to automatically consider ourselves failures. Oftentimes, the standards of success and failure that we live by are the ones we set for ourselves.

Our greatest critic is the one living in our heads. No one else will be as hard on you as you are on yourself. This can be a good and a bad thing. Because while we have the ability to push ourselves to do better and to be better, we also can drive ourselves into a very negative place.

Failure is such a heavy word. And it hurts. Especially when you feel that you haven’t lived up to your idea of what success is. Again, we all have goals and dreams, but somewhere along our journey to achieving all that we set out to achieve, we forget that we are only human and that it’s okay to not succeed all the time.

You’re probably thinking I’m crazy and that I’ve never ‘failed’ in my life, otherwise I wouldn’t be saying this. However, I am writing from experience. This past year was hard for me because I was juggling six classes and set high expectations for myself. It really hurt when all of those expectations weren’t met. I started to see myself as a failure because I had ‘failed.’  As I’m sure a lot of you know, the bad thing about seeing yourself as a failure is that it affects every other aspect of your life. It makes you doubt yourself more and it makes you not want to strive for other things because you feel like it’s impossible for you to succeed now that you haven’t accomplished one or many of your goals.

Whether that goal is getting into the university of your dreams, making the Dean’s List, or graduating at the top of your class, don’t be so hard on yourself. You will always have opportunities to do better, be better, and learn from your mistakes. I know it hurts and I know you don’t see it now, but life will go on. You will be great and wonderful and you will not, I repeat, you WILL NOT be a failure if you ‘fail.’ If you have given something your all, that’s what truly matters. Don’t dwell on the past or what you haven’t accomplished because it’s only going to hinder future successes and, trust me, there will be an abundance of those if you continue to believe in yourself.

You just have to keep going and keep your head up; realize that not achieving a goal doesn’t make you a failure and being hard on yourself is not the answer to those questions that I posed earlier. If you don’t reach your goals, make new ones and try again. If you don’t get perfect grades or do well on a test, instead of wasting your time and energy on beating yourself over what you consider to be failures, learn from your mistakes and remember that failing, though it may hurt, is not a bad thing. How you deal with failure, on the other hand, is what can potentially tear you down and make you forget how amazing you truly are.

So again, don’t be so hard on yourself. I know this is easier said than done (trust me, I know) but once you relieve yourself from the guilt and the pain that tends to come with ‘failing,’ you’ll begin to see that success starts when you accept your failures and stop seeing yourself as one.

Image: morguefile